Last fall, Lycoming County United Way held the annual campaign kickoff at Loyalsock Township High School.
The students and staff were a great audience and after the program, one student in particular was especially motivated to help her neighbors.
Hayley Haefner, a junior, approached school administrator Christina Herman about how she could get involved. Herman, also member of the LCUW board of directors, agreed to mentor a project with Haefner and a group of students.
"I asked a few friends if they wanted to help, and they all did," explained Hayley. "We got together to talk about what kind of project we wanted to do and we quickly decided on hosting a dance at the school as a fundraiser for United Way."
Hayley's planning committee was made up of students from eighth through 12th grades including Emanuel Finnerty, Danielle Gansel, Brittany Gettinger, Kirsten Girardi, Allen Hafner, Sabrina Soha, Ashley Steiger and Brittany Taylor.
"The students were really a pleasure to work with," said Herman. "They held regular planning meetings and divided up the tasks that needed to be done to organize the event. I think they all learned a lot about working together."
According to the committee, the to-do list included things such as recruiting chaperones and brainstorming on ideas for decorating, food and sponsors. They divided up the responsibilities and the event came together as planned in December.
"We had announcements on the school PA every day so everyone knew what we were planning. We held the dance in the school cafeteria right after school so that it was convenient for students to attend," Hayley said. "We charged $2 for admission or $1 along with a donated food item."
The students made snowflakes for decor and prepared food for snacks along with having local businesses like Giant and Weis donate gift cards for food. A middle school teacher filled the role of disc jockey to keep costs down, and Accent Lighting and FastSigns donated products and services.
"As part of the project, we also wanted to help people in our community who are facing hunger and homelessness," added Hayley. "So we collected food items at the dance and donated them to the American Rescue Workers in addition to the admission fee being donated to United Way. I learned a lot from the United Way assembly last fall about how there are a lot of people right here in our community that need help so I was happy to be able to do this."
"Hayley was so passionate about this fundraiser, and it was really heart-warming to see the other students so eager to help," Herman concluded. "I am very proud of them for all of the hard work they put into this."
While the students were not required to do the project, they did earn hours toward the school's Silver Cord program - a distinguished award available to high school students with the purpose of recognizing their out-of-school volunteer efforts. Students who complete the required 100 volunteer service hours will be recognized at their graduation by wearing a silver cord with their cap and gown.
"We believe it is important to encourage student involvement in the community and cultivate a sense of social responsibility," said Loyalsock Township superintendent Robert Grantier. "United Way often reminds us all to 'think we before me' and at our school, we couldn't agree more."
"The purpose of conducting our campaign kick-off program at Loyalsock last fall was in part to engage the students and create awareness of the importance of volunteering and helping others. There is a perception that many of today's young people are 'me-me first,' without much regard to the community around them," said Scott N. Lowery, LCUW executive director. "The students at Loyalsock certainly dispelled that notion. We are grateful for their interest in helping us help others and appreciate the interest and energy they put into the dance project."
"LCUW funds more than 40 human service programs in Lycoming County that are focused on nurturing our children, serving those with special needs, caring for people in crisis, supporting our seniors, and strengthening our families," added Lowery. "We couldn't do that without the support of countless volunteers and donors like our friends at the Loyalsock Township School District."